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“Powerful . . . A twisting tale of love, loss, and dark family secrets.” — Paula Hawkins, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Girl on the Train and Into the Water
A poignant and suspenseful drama that untangles the complicated ties binding three women—two sisters and their mother—in one Chinese immigrant family and explores what happens when the eldest daughter disappears, and a series of family secrets emerge, from the New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Translation
It begins with a mystery. Sylvie, the beautiful, brilliant, successful older daughter of the Lee family, flies to the Netherlands for one final visit with her dying grandmother—and then vanishes.
Amy, the sheltered baby of the Lee family, is too young to remember a time when her parents were newly immigrated and too poor to keep Sylvie. Seven years older, Sylvie was raised by a distant relative in a faraway, foreign place, and didn’t rejoin her family in America until age nine. Timid and shy, Amy has always looked up to her sister, the fierce and fearless protector who showered her with unconditional love.
But what happened to Sylvie? Amy and her parents are distraught and desperate for answers. Sylvie has always looked out for them. Now, it’s Amy’s turn to help. Terrified yet determined, Amy retraces her sister’s movements, flying to the last place Sylvie was seen. But instead of simple answers, she discovers something much more valuable: the truth. Sylvie, the golden girl, kept painful secrets . . . secrets that will reveal more about Amy’s complicated family—and herself—than she ever could have imagined.
A deeply moving story of family, secrets, identity, and longing, Searching for Sylvie Lee is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive portrait of an immigrant family. It is a profound exploration of the many ways culture and language can divide us and the impossibility of ever truly knowing someone—especially those we love.
“This is a true beach read! You can’t put it down!” – Jenna Bush Hager, Today Show Book Club Pick
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Is anyone truly who they seem to be? The odds aren’t good, judging by Jean Kwok’s gripping mystery. When Sylvie—the perfect, high-achieving daughter of a Chinese American family—goes missing, her younger, feckless sister sets out to find her, whisking us on a journey around the globe, from New York’s Chinatown to Amsterdam and beyond. But the main journey in Kwok’s novel is a deep dive into notions of home, trust, and belonging. A sensitive examination of the immigrant experience, Searching for Sylvie Lee suggests that simply being alive can be perilous to one’s sense of self.
Kwok's thoughtful thriller (after Mambo in Chinatown) explores the Chinese immigrant experience in New York and Amsterdam, as the death of a grandmother leads two sisters to discover secrets about their family's past. Beautiful, high-achieving older sister Sylvie was raised by relatives in the Netherlands until she was nine while her newly emigrated parents tried to make a life for themselves in the U.S. In her 30s, Sylvie returns to say goodbye to her grandmother and becomes romantically involved with both a second cousin to whom she has always been attracted and a mysterious musician. When Sylvie disappears, having told her family in Amsterdam that she is returning to New York, her shy younger sister, Amy, sets off to find out what happened. Amy gets to know the family members she has never met, and begins to formulate theories about what happened to Sylvie. Kwok builds suspense by alternating between the points of view of Sylvie and Amy. The story is at its best when it delineates the struggles of second-generation Chinese immigrants in the two countries, and at its weakest when it falls into swooning romance clich s. Because most readers will solve the mysteries before Amy does, this one will satisfy those interested in the immigrant experience more than those looking for a complex plot to puzzle over.